AP vs. IB: Are They Evaluated Equally in College Admissions?


In 2014, 73,000 International Baccalaureate (IB) diploma candidates were examined in the United States. Since its inception in 1968, the IB programme has focused on developing “the intellectual, personal, emotional and social skills” that students need to “live, learn and work in a rapidly globalizing world”.


In 2014, 2.3 million Advanced Placement (AP) students were examined in the United States. Founded in 1955, CollegeBoard developed AP as “a rigorous academic program built on the commitment, passion and hard work of students” to promote college readiness.


Because these two academic programs, and often competitors, differ in mission, structure, and even principle, many IB and AP students question how these two courses of study will ultimately be valued during the college admissions process. Recently, in fact, we received a question from a Within Reach client about IB versus AP as it relates to admission into top-tier science, technology, engineering and math (STEM)-focused institutions. To confirm our message that applicants are not evaluated based on their selection of IB versus AP classes but rather on the rigor of their classes, alongside their fulfillment of prerequisite courses for particular programs of college study, we turned to two STEM academic powerhouses, Georgia Tech and Harvey Mudd, for their input.

Larry, an admissions counselor at Georgia Tech, was brief and quite straightforward in his answer: “IB and AP students are evaluated in absolutely the same manner.”

Jason, an incredibly helpful and engaging Harvey Mudd admissions counselor, who corroborated the statement above from Larry, further offered that since there is so much variability in rigorous course offerings in the U.S. (think schools that implement an AP/IB hybrid model), Harvey Mudd does not prefer IB to AP nor vice versa, nor does it penalize students who participate in IB programmes of a more “fluid” nature than that of the strict Diploma Programme. Above all, Jason recommended that all students interested in pursuing STEM majors in college plan their junior and senior years carefully, as top-tier schools will undoubtedly require advanced Calculus, Chemistry, and Physics from students who wish to be considered for admission. Since IB students en route to the diploma often lock in their course selections for junior AND senior years during sophomore year, these students need to be forward thinking about their plans for future collegiate majors and institutions of higher education. In Jason’s opinion, the AP program is much more flexible than the IB programme and may enable students to more easily fulfill their course requirements for top-tier, STEM-centered schools.

Overall, the message was consistent: as long as students challenge themselves by taking the most rigorous courses available to them, their evaluation in admissions does not hinge on whether their courses fell into the IB, AP, or even Honors buckets.

As always, please let us know if you have any further questions. We love hearing from you!





One thought on “AP vs. IB: Are They Evaluated Equally in College Admissions?

  1. For the life of me, i can’t understand the push for IB. Unless you are planning to go to college out of the country, I see no benefit to IB over AP, period. At best there are some schools in the U.S. that will not differentiate between the two. At worst, your IB credits and diploma will be, well, worthless. There are several high ranking schools for example in the West that do not give ANY admissions benefits to IB and, on their admissions webpage, state they only consider AP for academic rigor. Moreover, it is almost a given that the school will award more college credit for AP over IB.

    If I were a U.S. student and had the option to choose, I would not even consider the IB route — I would just take more AP classes.

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